By Gigi Wood
A new festival is taking place this fall on Iowa City’s northside.
Northside Oktoberfest will take place Oct. 1, during the University of Iowa football team’s bye week this season. It will include Iowa City’s annual Brewfest, dedication of the extended literary walk, food and art vendors, music and several children’s events.
Several business owners came together to organize the first annual Oktoberfest in the northside neighborhood, which includes local landmarks such as Pagliai’s Pizza, Hamburg Inn and John’s Grocery.
“Cindy (Clark) up at I.C. Ugly’s and Melissa (Carr) at George’s and Jammie (Goedken) at T Spoons have done a lot of legwork in getting everything together,” said Doug Alberhasky, store manager and bier guy at John’s Grocery. “Kurt (Friese) at Devotay has done the web site stuff. Derek (Perez) at El Banditos has done the music. So we’ve got a lot of people working in the same direction and many hands make a light load of the situation.”
John’s Grocery had been shopping around for a new location for its annual Brewfest, which took place last year in the Hideaway parking lot, at Prentiss and Gilbert streets. The end result is the Northside Oktoberfest.
“We weren’t sure if we’d be able to grow very much at the Hideaway location,” Mr. Alberhasky said. “So we were looking for another place to have it. So we thought we could bring the Brewfest into the Oktoberfest and kill two birds with one stone. That’s what got us thinking about it. The more people we talked to, the more people wanted to get on board.”
This year, Brewfest, which allows people to sample rare, vintage and craft beers, will take place as part of the Northside Oktoberfest. The Brewfest will be located in Pagliai’s Pizza’s parking lot, at the southeast corner ofBloomingtonand Linn streets. While tickets to Brewfest are $20 and up, the rest of the festival is free, except for Mr. Alberhasky’s other event, Sodafest, which will cost $5.
Tim Fischer owner of The Pit Smokehouse,130 N. Dubuque St., did much of the organizing and coordination of the festival, Mr. Alberhasky said. The event is now a 501(c)3 corporation; proceeds will be donated to the American Heart Association.
“Last year for Brewfest, even in the rain, worst weather ever for Brewfest, we were still able to write the American Heart Association an $11,000 check,” he said. “This year, it’s really kind of scary, because the city has never really done a festival during the school year and we have no idea how many people we’re going to have. Brewfest we’re limiting to 2,500 people, because that’s how many glasses we have.”
Throughout Oktoberfest,Linn Streetwill be closed fromBloomington StreettoJefferson Street. North of Market Street there will be a concert stage with music throughout the day, as well as food vendor stands from local eateries. The Old Capitol City Roller Girls roller derby team will waitress and bus tables. UI entrepreneurial students are volunteering at the event for a class project.
Oktoberfest will open at 10 a.m. Mayor Matt Hayek will dedicate the new literary walk extension along Linn Street, which was completed within the past year, along with $450,000 in sidewalk and street improvements, as well as new benches and other amenities.
Various prizes will be awarded at the festival, including a tour of the beer tunnels under the streets of the northside neighborhood.
On Linn Street between Market and Jefferson streets, there will be stands for artists selling crafts, farmer’s market vendors, church groups and service organizations.
In the Phelan, Tucker, Mullen,Walker, Tucker & Gelman law firm parking lot on Market Street, Geoff’s Bike & Ski will offer free bicycle tune-ups for children’s bicycles. There will also be a bicycle rodeo, an obstacle course that teaches children about bicycle safety.
Kidsfest will take place in the parking lot between the Bluebird Diner and George’s Buffet. There will be another stage, with performances by students of the Preucil music school. Dave Panther of the Hamburg Inn will be performing various clown acts during the festival, as well.
Also at the Kidsfest will be John’s Grocery’s inaugural Sodafest, which will charge $5 a person to sample root beers and sodas. Participants will receive an acrylic mug they can bring back to participating neighborhood businesses for free refills.
Mr. Alberhasky said Oktoberfest is designed to bring a greater awareness of the northside neighborhood.
“Everybody knows about downtown but we are, at times it feels we’re the little red-headed stepchild of downtown,” he said. “When you look at the places that really make Iowa City unique and the things that people remember about visiting Iowa City, it’s Pagliai’s, it’s the Hamburg Inn, it’s John’s Grocery. These are businesses that have been here for generations. Since the Iowa City area is so transient, you get a lot of people who haven’t been here, who haven’t heard of us. This is a good way to get people to find out about the Motley Cow and find out about Linn Street Café and all of the amazing businesses we have down here.”